Everybody has heard the media version of the McDonalds hot coffee case but nobody seems to have heard the truth. What the media never mentions are the facts that led a jury of conservative people to the conclusion that McDonalds not only caused Stella Liebeck’s injuries but also desperately needed to be punished. The pertinent, and usually ignored, facts are that McDonalds maintains their coffee at 180 degrees which is about the temperature of the radiator on an automobile on a hot summer day. Hot coffee at 180 degrees will cause third degree burns in a matter of seconds. Sure, poor Stella Liebeck spilled her coffee in her lap and that’s her fault. Her punishment should have been stained sweat pants. However, what she received was almost unimaginable. She received third degree burns to her thighs and genitals. Her burns were so severe that she was hospitalized in a burn ward where her wounds were debrided. Burns are debrided by taking a tool somewhat akin to a cheese grater and scraping away the dead flesh until you hit tissue that bleeds. Over the next year Liebeck underwent plastic surgery and skin grafts on her legs and genitals. Still, all Liebeck wanted was $20,000 to help pay for her medical bills. McDonalds told her to get lost.
McDonalds claimed to be unaware of the danger presented by radiator hot coffee and swore that they had never had another complaint or injury as a result of the temperature of their coffee. Liebeck’s counsel ultimately was able to document that McDonalds had received over 700 complaints of injuries caused by the temperature of their coffee, including several as serious as Liebeck’s, but had chosen to ignore the complaints because of the profitability of their coffee. The jury awarded Liebeck only $160,000 in actual damages, a rather modest sum considering the severe nature of her injuries. The same jury was so offended by McDonalds’ corporate lack of concern for their customers’ injuries and their calculated dishonesty that they assessed $2,700,000 in punitive damages against McDonald. The judge reduced the award to $640,000 almost immediately and the matter was settled while on appeal for considerably less than the amount awarded by the judge.
If the true facts of this case still sound frivolous to you then maybe you should drain your radiator onto your lap and rethink the issue.
For more information contact a Tyler Injury Lawyer today.